Home Equity

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Before taking a home equity loan, look over these guidelines.

1. Make your mortgage payments a priority. It's your home that's on the line.

2. Don't go with a high loan-to-value product. Lenders who let you borrow more than your house is worth may not be doing you a favor.

3. If you like plastic too much, forgo using a credit card to access a line of credit and get checks instead. Paper is a little harder to let go of.

4. Don't tempt yourself by carrying your home equity credit card or checks with you all the time.

5. Keep some equity freed up for emergencies.

6. Maintain good credit. Banks monitor your payment habits and if they see a change for the worse, they could reduce or freeze your credit.

7. Read the fine print in your loan agreement.

Want a home equity loan? Get quotes in your area.

8. If a lender is unfamiliar to you, check with government agencies to see if there have been any complaints.

9. Before you do anything, ask yourself whether you can afford more debt and, if so, how much.

10. If you're out of a job, you could soon be out of a house too if you can't make the loan payments. Investigate other resources -- disability, unemployment, savings, borrowing against a 401(k), stocks, insurance policy or retirement plan -- before you decide to take that risk.

11. If you are going to use the money to make a large purchase, make sure it's something that's going to outlast the life of the loan. Don't put your house on the line for a vacation or new clothes.

12. Don't use home equity loans for day-to-day expenses. Those should be paid entirely out of your current income.

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